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Analysis of the text “Doctor in the House”

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The author of the text is a famous English writer of the 20th century Richard Gordon. He had been an anaesthetist at St.Bartholomew’s Hospital, a ship’s surgeon and an assistant editor of the British Medical Journal. He left medical practice and started writing his “Doctor” series. Thus, “Doctor in the house” is one of them. At the beginning of the story the author reviews the medical-students’ attitude towards the final examinations. The candidates have to prepare carefully. Then the narrator gives a detailed description of the written papers, the first part of the exam. Further on, the candidates take an oral exam. At last, the narrator starts answering. He gets through the first question, but stumbles through the second one. Normally waiting for the results does not come easy for the candidates. The procedure of coming out is well-known, so the crowd waits for the verdict “pass” or “failed”. To finish with the narrator describes the moment he has learnt that he passed. In this text the author rises the problem of the final examinations for a medical student.

The main idea conveyed by the author may be stated in this way: most of the events in our life looks not so frightening when we have got them through. The text is presented by the 1st person narration interlaced with descriptive passages, dialogues of the personages and inner monologues. The prevailing mood of the text is ironic and satirical. The text can be logically divided into five parts: the exam preparation, the writing paper, the oral examination, the black days and the result announcement. Observing the plot of the text and stylistic devises that are used the structure of the text can be interpreted as a prolonged metaphor of the human’s life. From part to part together with the narrator we go through “dying”, the human and the heaven trials, a long expectation for the verdict and, finally, we stand at a crossroads, leading to heaven, which means “pass”, and to hell, which is “fail”.

The first part goes under the idea of “dying”. The students ironically call the day “event” see it as an unpleasant inevitability and ticked the days off grievously, right the way we expect our death. The author drops us a hint at the very first sentence using the simile “like death”. Moreover, to express brightly the way the students see the examination the author compare it with a contest or a boxing match, using such stylistic devises as an extended metaphor “they are straight contest between himself [a student] and the examiners, conducted on well-established rules for both”, a simile like a prize-fighter, an epithet a fighting spirit. It should be added that the author is rather ironic in students’ preparations, while saying that “the candidates spend almost as much time over technical details of the context as they do learning general medicine from their textbooks”. The same duet of irony and contrast is used further, that is “ran a final breathless sprint down well-trodden paths of medicine”.

Whether these paths are not trodden well enough or the candidates exaggerate the difficulty of race? The second part, the writing papers, seems like a human trial. There is an invigilator sitting on a raised platform as if a judge, two or three uniformed porters looking desperately and providing the image of the policemen. This idea is brought by expressive lexis, a simile and an allusion to a trial at the Old Bailey. At this trial the students are poor victims, who have to defend themselves by setting all their knowledge of medicine in a limited time period. The author immerses the reader into the atmosphere using such thematic words as “cheating”, “pass”, “examinees”, etc. The author masterfully depicts the way the candidates are behaving during this part of the exam, the air on their faces and time they use to complete the work. Thus, this extract is full of vivid epithets, such as an awkward expression, anonymous examinees, frustrated brilliance, etc. The author fills the passage by means of contrast while singles out two types of examinees.

Those who have “an expression of self-consciousness and superiority on their faces” and others who “rise on their feet, hand in their papers and leave”. And he develops this idea by means of a parallel construction in the sentence “Whether these people were so brilliant they were able to complete the examination in an hour and a half or whether this was the time required for them to set down unhurriedly their entire knowledge of medicine was never apparent from the nonchalant air with which they left the room.” Further the conversation phrases take place. They seem rather authentic by using colloquial phrases “How did you get on?”, “so-so”, “my dear old boy”. This passage gives us an idea, that this part of the exam, “the human trial”, is not really important. To confirm this, the narrator mocks at the way the tripos at Cambridge are marked. In the third part of the story the author emphasizes the significance and importance of the oral exam.

He uses the allusion “the judgment day” that immediately gives us this idea. Also we feel the immense gravity of the judge at this level with the help of the prolonged metaphor the god’s brow threatens like imminent thunderstorm. Still the author follows his ironic mood and says “confusion brings confusion”, decomposing the set-phrase “familiarity brings contempt” and adding that one should avoid to “struggle like a cow in a bow”. The interior of the waiting-room has some similarity with a condemned cell indeed. It is tiny, not really furnished and the windows unlikely to be open. Thus the author follows the metaphor of a trial process there the examinees are defendants. Describing the atmosphere in the waiting-room the author depicts candidates of several types showing their actions while waiting.

Here the author is extremely accurate in classifying examinees and in choosing very colorful epithets and phrases such as “lolling back on the rear legs of his chair with his feet on the table”, “sat on the edge of his chair tearing little bits off his invitation card and jumping irritatingly every time the door open”, “fondling the pages of his battered textbook in a desperate farewell embrace”, “who treated the whole thing with the familiarity of a photographer at the wedding”. The Nonchalant, the Frankly Worried, the Crammer and the Old Stager clearly appears in our imaginations. This proves that the author is strong in using antonomasia. The writer gives a whole passage to description of one more examinee in the room that is a woman. The author reveals the reasons for women’s disadvantages in oral examinations, still rather ironically. To succeed they have to prepare carefully and balance in every single detail.

This feeling of walking on the razor’s edge is produced by using similar constructions, such as “her suit was neat but not smart, her hair tidy but not striking”. Entering the room the narrator looks at the examiners appraisingly as if they are his contestants. Here the author follows the previously mentioned metaphor of seeing examination as a contest or a match. Thus one of the examiners is like a prize-fighter that is a simile. Further the conversation phrases starts. Knowing all the narrator’s thoughts, together with him we are getting through the first questions. But an unexpected interruption and unknown answer to the second question leave the reader in doubt. The next part suddenly brings us forward when the viva is over. We understand perfectly well the mood of the narrator during these days by the key epithet “black”. To express the narrator’s condition more vividly the author uses an accurate simile “like having a severe accident” that develops into a prolonged metaphor, again with epithets (a severe accident, a depressing experience) and a hyperbole “if I would ever make a recovery”.

But anyway the hope emerges in the narrator that is shown in a very metaphoric last sentence of the passage. Further the narrator says the believing of all students all over the world through Grimsdyke, “One doesn’t fail exams. […] One comes down, one muffs, one is ploughed, plucked, or pipped”. These phrase is very bright and memorable with the help of the parallel constructions “one…, one…”, paronomasia “ploughed, plucked, or pipped” and euphemisms that are used. One more time the author makes a link to the prolonged metaphor of the text “examination for a student is like death” when he uses euphemisms for “death” developing Grimsdyke’s idea. The author shows that all the students are at the same mood while waiting for the result announcement.

This effect is produced by both generalization of meaning crowd for candidates extended by epithets subdued and muttering and simile “like the supporters of a home team who had just been beaten in a cup tie”. Next passage has an enormous importance from the point of view of the text structure. Right after the moment the student has known his result, depending on whether he passed or fail, his ways continues upstairs or downstairs. Here the author makes an allusion to the idea of two opposite sides that are heaven and hell, which are led by the image of stairs. “Pass” allows going upstairs that also means success and congratulations. “Fail” closes the way to “heaven”, so the student has to go downstairs miserably and seek the opiate oblivion in “hell”. It should be added that the Secretary of the Committee descends downstairs as if an angel who comes down from heaven to fulfill the Higher Will. The closer to the end the tenser the narration goes.

The author keeps the reader in suspense by using gradation. Almost every short sentence here contains an expressive mean and makes its contribution to the scene. They are similes “like an unexploded bomb” and “my palms were as wet as sponges“, an alliteration in “silence and stillness”, epithets “frightening”, “unexpected”, “with slow scrapping feet”, “the Secretary and the porters came solemnly down the stairs”. We can imagine the narrator’s worry, when he hears his number. The vivid description of his condition helps us, that is his pulse shot in his ears, his face was burning, his stomach seemed suddenly plucked from his body. The shade of irony is added by means of contrast of Secretary’s uninteresting look and the narrator’s great excitement. The author makes the atmosphere strained, using another round of graduation together with hyperbola. In this very moment, when the narrator is about to have learnt his “verdict”, the whole world waits quietly together with him. In a second, the climax of the text takes place just in one short sentence “pass”, he muttered.

To show what a shock and a relief for the narrator this news is, the author uses inversion, putting a focus on the narrator’s emotions. We see it through such stylistic devices as an epithet “blindly” and a simile “like a man hit by a blackjack”. Thus, the prolonged metaphor of a human’s life ends with the narrator going to heaven. This story shows that Richard Gordon is a master of irony. He is very accurate in his observations and descriptions. Thus he creates very vivid images and gives a new form to well-known notions. Gordon does it masterfully by means of different stylistic devices. The most used of them is a simile, a metaphor, a contrast and numerous epithets.

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